175th Anniversary Celebrations in 2019
The Old Ticket Office is home to Entikera Ltd. who trade under the brand Mpfineartprinting , and so is normally a working office and printing workshop. To accommodate the unique anniversary celebrations all the working equipment was removed for the duration of the weekend. This provided a safe environment for visitors, allowed more space for displays, and meant that the rooms could be seen as they might have appeared between 1844 and the early 1970s when the building closed to the public.
We were very pleased indeed to receive a number of special visitors who made themselves known to us. They included several retired engine drivers who said they had passed many times and always wondered what it was like inside the building, and the conservation officer responsible for getting listed status for the Old Ticket Office thus saving it from demolition. One visitor had travelled specially from Ebbw Vale as he had sold us a few jigsaws, now in our collection, and he was interested to see their new home. We felt honoured as the chap who had made the model of Culham (renamed Pendon Parva) for Pendon museum brought some really interesting photographs for us to see of the model under construction. One lady with family connections to the merchant took photos of a particular coal wagon to send to New Zealand. Perhaps the farthest travelled visitors were a lady who was in this country on holiday from Australia who, on learning of the anniversary, contacted her brother in France and they both came to visit. We must not forget our intrepid trio of Edwardian passengers who, courtesy of GWR and Thames Travel, managed to visit several of the event venues enjoying themselves enormously, just as we sincerely hope all our welcome visitors did too.
If you visited the Old Ticket Office in Culham over the anniversary weekend, or have any comments, we would be very pleased to hear from you via ku.oc.noitatsmahluc@ofni
Culham Station name board
Photographed at the Didcot Railway Centre
Early morning sun at 8:00am
Special Thames Travel 175 circular bus service
Courtesy of Thames Travel
Three returns to Didcot please guvn'r
Visitors eagery awaiting Clun Castle
Vintage Trains 175 Luncheon Special
Clun Castle going to turn on the Didcot triangle
Going back to Oxford for the 175 Express return leg
A copy of the very first timetable
The ticket office ready for action
Information banners and some memorabilia on display
Part of the display in the ticket office
Special 175th anniversary cover
Courtesy of Buckinghamcovers
Record breaking train, Wednesday 12th June
The anniversary celebrations got off to a flying start when, as part of their contribution to the 175th anniversary, GWR arranged for a special train carrying invited guests (which included the author!), to run non-stop from Oxford to Paddington, re-creating the very first train which ran in the opposite direction exactly 175 years previously. Intercity Express 5 car set, number 802005, smashed the long standing speed record by posting a start to stop time of 37 minutes and 35 seconds. A full report can be read here.
Saturday 15th June 9:00am - 4:00pm, and Sunday 16th June 10:00am - 2:00pm
The Old Ticket Office at Culham hosted two celebration events with the Railway Inn joining in both days, and our neighbour opposite in Station House on the Saturday. The whole area both sides of the railway was constantly very busy, and many people commented on the mini village atmosphere it created.
Thames Travel operated a special 'GWR 175' bus service on the Saturday. It ran hourly between Didcot and Abingdon, calling at Culham, Appleford, and Long Wittenham for Pendon Museum who were also open. The bus stopped on the old Abingdon Road by the steps leading down to the Railway Inn, and also a little further along at the end of the service road by our banner giving level access to the Old Ticket Office.
Normal GWR train services operated throughout the day (Saturday only - no trains stop on Sundays), and they sold a special combined bus/train/Didcot Railway Centre ticket which gave unlimited travel between the various events. It was certainly noticeable when either a bus or train arrived bringing fresh visitors.
Many people took advantage of the free parking outside the Old Ticket Office, alongside Platforms 1 and 2, and by the Railway Inn. There were so many cars at one point that they were also parked solid along both service roads.
In the event, the Old Ticket Office opened its doors to the public at 8:15 am on Saturday as there were many early birds who sought the opportunity of seeing inside this fine old building before going on to one of the other venues. The day was so popular, that the last visitors did not leave until 7:10pm! On Sunday the doors were actually open from 9:30am until 3:15pm. We were kept so busy on both days that we totally forgot to take any photos during the event. For much of the time on Saturday, visitors were shoulder to shoulder in both rooms in the ticket office - far exceeding our expectations, good weather for most of the day must have helped. Sunday was less hectic, but we were still kept busy by a constant influx of eager visitors. As a rough estimate we think that about 800 people visited on the Saturday, with 150 or so on Sunday.
Visitors could explore the original Brunel broad gauge era building and its surroundings where there are a few surprises waiting to be discovered. They could see the old ticket office window, original tickets dating back to the 1890s, Edmondson date punches, and even take home a special souvenir ticket after punching it with the date and cancelling it like an old time Ticket Inspector.
Well over 200 of our free Discovery Trail booklets were taken as it proved popular with both young and old alike. Using the booklet visitors could search out some remnants of broad gauge rail, discover graffiti from 140 years ago and try to find the mark where a fatal shot ricocheted from the ticket counter top in 1868. The challenge was to find all the items of interest and answer all the questions about them in the booklet.
Items on display in the two rooms which were open to the public included GWR memorabilia comprising original books, staff magazines, tickets, jigsaws and uniforms; model railway items in four scales from '0' down to 'Z' including wagons from local coal merchants; an illustrated history of Culham station featuring copies of original plans from 1843; and albums containing copies of old railway posters, original GWR paperwork and publicity leaflets, and photographs of all our jigsaw collection. A video display of steam excursions that have passed through Culham was played throughout the day and visitors were intrigued to learn of the historic links between the station at Culham and Nuneham House. Also on dislay were a number of items loaned specially by Pendon Museum, these included a 3D banner showing Pendon Parva station and a large board with a photograph of Pendon Parva ticket office alongside one of the real Old Ticket Office taken from the same angle in 2018.
Some duplicate items from our collection were for sale, but there were many free souvenirs to take home too. These included specially produced souvenir vintage style tickets, a coloured information leaflet, a sheet outlining the history of the line, postcards of the Old Ticket Office, colouring sheets, and the Discovery Trail booklet. Freely available to download from this website are coloured sheets, in various scales, with which models of the Old Ticket Office on Platform 2 and the original Waiting Rooms on Platform 1 can be made. Free sample packs of acid free card were available for aspiring model makers and all the packs (over 20) went. Several people said they were going to have a go at making a model ticket office and we look forward to seeing the results of their labours.
At the Railway Inn
Refreshments and toilet facilities were available on both days at the Railway Inn which is adjacent to Platform 1. Staff were kept very busy as many people followed our Discovery Trail which ended near there, and the Inn was certainly bustling for much of the weekend.
On the Saturday, Ploughman's Lunches were available from 12:00noon right through until 4:00pm, with tea, coffee and light bites available all day from 9:00am. Sunday Roasts were served from 12:00noon, with light refreshments also proving to be very popular on both days.
A full sized traction engine steamed over from Appleton and stayed for a couple of hours on the Saturday, later being joined by a beautifully restored breakdown recovery vehicle, a kit car and a rather special motor tricycle.
At Station House
Our neighbours were busy saving the Green Belt with a stall set up outside their house selling potted plants, green teas, delicious cakes with green icing and lovely home made scones with very tasty rhubard and orange compote. You can read more about their campaign here.
Steam on Saturday - and lots of it
The traction engine which steamed over from Appleton started the ball rolling in fine style, and this was followed by more steam activity on the main line in one day than we are ever likely to see again.
Not one, but four steam trains passed by on their way between Oxford and Didcot
The Railway Touring CompanyAlways popular, the Flying Scotsman left Didcot after stopping to pick up passengers from platform 1 shortly after 9:07am travelling towards Swindon, hauling the Railway Touring Company's Cotswold Venturer bound for Worcester. The return journey was via Oxford arriving at Didcot platform 5 a couple of minutes late just after 6:37pm.
Vintage TrainsAs a very special contribution to the 175th anniversary celebrations, Vintage Trains ran not one, but two one-off railtours on 15th June, both very fittingly featuring their flagship locomotive, GWR number 7029 'Clun Castle'.
The Oxford 175 Express made an early morning start, leaving Solihull slightly late at 7:00am, picking up along the way at Dorridge and Warwick Parkway. Passing through Banbury 4 minutes early at 8:27am, the train arrived in Oxford at 9:21am having had a slight delay just north of the city. The return journey was scheduled to leave Oxford at 6:32pm which it did, bang on time. These timings allowed plenty of opportunity to join in with the 175th celebrations, explore Oxford and even travel on the Luncheon Circular.
The Oxford 175 Luncheon Circular departed Oxford Parkway at 12:40pm, then having stopped at Oxford continued via Radley, Culham and Appleford towards Didcot. Leaving Didcot, a sprint along the Great Western Mainline took it through Reading, Slough and Southall. Shortly after Southall, turning onto the Greenford curve that links the Chiltern and Great Western Mainlines it joined the Chiltern Mainline, continuing past High Wycombe and Princess Risborough towards Bicester. The Bicester chord and Gavray Junction took the tour through Bicester Village station and Islip, completing the circular railtour back at Oxford Parkway and Oxford 7 minutes late at 16:34, having been delayed once more just north of Oxford.
Vintage Trains turned their train round using the Didcot triangle prior to its return to Birmingham meaning Clun Castle travelled along the line between Oxford and Didcot three times in the one day.
Published timings raised the very exciting prospect that Clun Castle and Flying Scotsman would acually pass each other, travelling in opposite directions, somewhere near Hinksey at about 6:22pm. Incredibly this meeting did take place when and where anticipated, despite both trains running just under a minute late. The remarkable event was captured by a number of people who were in the right place at the right time, perhaps as a result of reading our heads up on the special 175th anniversary website.
~~~ Celebration archive ~~~
Anniversary bannersWe designed a series of large roll-up banners for display both during and after the anniversary year. Leading up to the celebration weekend they were hosted by Culham Science Centre and the Westgate Library in Oxford amongst others. The banner exhibition continues to be shown at various venues including the Oxfordshire History Centre, Pendon Museum and at model railway shows. Read about the Touring Exhibition and view large images of the banners.
Archived Anniversary websiteDip into the archived DidcotOxfordGWR175.org website which we designed and curated for the lead up to the 175th anniversary celebrations on behalf of all the participating events. Please be aware however that this website ceased to be maintained after June 2019, so some of the links to external sites may become out of date, and the social media accounts referenced (such as Facebook) may have been closed.
South Oxford Railway History TrailAs part of the 175th anniversary celebrations, a special walking trail was set up for explorers to discover the fascinating and hidden history of the first railway in Oxford and we have preserved it as an interactive web page. Explore the South Oxford railway history trail and learn how the railway influenced the development of the area, how it changed over time, and glimpse into the lives of some pioneering local residents who were associated with early railways.
Simmering outside the Railway Inn
Two more visitors in the Railway Inn car park
Visitors gathering ready for Flying Scotsman
The Railway Inn - it won't stay this quiet for long!
Our roving Edwardian passengers
A magic moment near Hinksey at about 6:22pm
Courtesy of Vintage Trains
Special GWR timetable for Saturday
7:00pm on Saturday and the car park is still busy
Clun Castle should be here soon!
Our banner at the end of the station approach road served to mark our temporary bus stop on Saturday
Flying Scotsman and the Cotswold Venturer
Courtesy of the Railway Touring Company
Supporters of the Celebrations at Culham
Culham Science Centre, Dapol, Great Western Railway, Greening Lamborn Trust, Hornby Hobbies Ltd., Network Rail Corporate Archive, Oxforddiecast, Pendon Museum, Thames Travel, The Railway Inn, and Vintage Trains
Main sponsors of the Anniversary at Culham were:
Entikera Limited - with registered office at the Old Ticket Office, trading as :
Mpfineartprinting.co.uk - Fine art Giclée & photographic printing, digital fine art reproduction and picture framing